Monday, November 10, 2008

Opera Atelier - The Abduction from the Seraglio - they strike again

See it! (Of course I say that about every one of their productions.)

Under time pressure, we left the theatre after two or three minutes of curtain calls, but half suspect there were many people still applauding as we reached our target ten to fifteen minutes later. People loved this production - as did I; I have seen three or four productions in my life, and this was by far the most exuberant, funny, moving, and overall enjoyable of all, by far.

Previous productions have struggled with the problem of filling a lot of orchestral time with no singing, but this company has little difficulty, with the commitment to a large balletic component, and the ability to make those components more than just twirling and jumping (though that is fun to watch); they add humour, and a degree of plot development as well through the choreography they choose.

The highlights in the cast were the servants, Lawrence Wiliford as Pedrillo, and Carla Huhtanen as Blonde. They were able to inject all the humour their roles required, and in many ways more - Wiliford is not just a fine singer, but a great slapstick performer, and mugger, in the sense of making faces, and acrobat. Huhtanen (my favorite Papagena ever, over many productions seen of the Magic Flute) is utterly skilled at roles like this for Opera Atelier.

The other great role for generating humour is that of Osmin, also wonderfully filled by Gustav Andreassen.

Frederic Antoun appeared to fit in well with the ensemble in his initial Opera Atelier role as Belmonte. As Konstanze, Amanda Pabyan sang wonderfully, but seemed to me to have some difficulty getting the Baroque gestures that are such a part of Opera Atelier's productions exactly right; they seemed off, and when I studied scenes where she and Huhtanen were paired and intended to be gesturing similarly, I noticed small differences, small but significant in how I found I was responding. The miss I perceived on the gestures extended to arias in which she was alone as well (I have watched these gestures for years now.). I suspect the female lead did not have enough time to rehearse getting this entirely right. But this is a small point - she held up through the coloratura work, and the audience overall loved her.

I cannot say enough about Curtis Sullivan - his role as Pasha Selim was perfect for his bass baritone, his acting skills, and his utter naturality as part of this company. Also, he is a hunk.

As always, the dancers were an addition to the drama (I think this is very special to this company). And set design, and costume design, and stage management, etc. etc. etc.

And then there is Tafelmusik - I too often forget how great they are in this role - Marshall Pynkoski made their presence a key point in his introductory speech and that was right. What a delight that Toronto has such a fine baroque chamber orchestra!

Readers anywhere near Toronto have some time to see the production! So go.

Thanks so much to Marshall Pynkoski and Jeanette Lajeunesse-Zingg for founding this company and keeping it going.

Oh yeah - thanks to Mozart, though they won't help him much.

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